The Next Four Years, the Biotech Agenda, and the Human Future

The Next Four Years, the Biotech Agenda, and the Human Future

Event poster

Thursday, December 9, 2004

The Graduate Center
City University of New York
Proshansky Auditorium
New York City

co-sponsored by

Center for Genetics and Society
The Graduate Center, CUNY
The Nation Institute
The New York Open Center

On December 9, 2004, over 400 New Yorkers gathered to hear five noted academics, authors and activists make the case that liberals and progressives need to support socially responsible control over the new human genetic technologies as a priority concern. Presentations were followed by lively discussion.

A report on the Symposium follows. It contains:

Texts of Presentations
About the Co-Sponsors


The new human biotechnologies pose some of the most controversial and divisive political challenges of our time. Although many applications promise new ways of preventing and curing disease, others encourage new forms of discrimination, racism, and exclusion. Still others could open the door to a high-tech consumer eugenics that could radically alter the nature of humanity and undermine the foundations of civil society. Meanwhile, the biotech industry has moved rapidly to frame public debate in its favor and build influence within the political parties. With the conclusion of the November elections, liberals and progressives need to consider deeply the implications of the new human biotechnologies for social justice, equality, and democracy.


David Levine, Director, Center for Continuting Education, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Richard Hayes, Executive Director, Center for Genetics and Society - Moderator


  Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D., is Associate Executive Director of the Center for Genetics and Society and one of the emerging leaders in the new movement for responsible societal control over new human biotechnologies. She served as lead organizer of the May 2004 conference Gender and Justice in the Gene Age, helped lead the pro-choice opposition to California's Stem Cell Initiative, Proposition 71, and has written and spoken widely on these and related topics.
  Sheldon Krimsky, Ph.D., is Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning at Tufts University. His research has focused on the linkages between science/technology, ethics/values and public policy. He is the author of seven books, including Science and the Private Interest: Has the lure of profits corrupted biomedical research? (2003), and Biotechnics and Society: The Rise of Industrial Genetics (1991). Professor Krimsky has served on the National Institutes of Health's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, and chaired the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  Stuart Newman, Ph.D., is Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at New York Medical College. He has been a visiting professor at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, the Centre à l'Energie Atomique-Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the University of Tokyo. He was a founding member of the Council for Responsible Genetics and is a Fellow of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, Chicago, IL.His research interests include cellular and molecular mechanisms of vertebrate limb development, physical mechanisms of morphogenesis, and mechanisms of morphological evolution. Other biomedically-related activities include writings on the social and cultural aspects of biological research and technology

Dorothy Roberts, J.D., is Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Northwestern University. She has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues concerning reproduction and motherhood. She has authored or edited six books, including Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty (1997), which received the 1998 Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. Professor Roberts serves as a consultant to the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. and the Open Society Institute's Program on Reproductive Health and Rights, and as a member of the board of directors of the National Black Women's Health Project.

  William Saletan is Chief Political Correspondent for the on-line magazine Slate, and the author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War (2003). He is a former editor of the Hotline and a contributor to numerous publications, including The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, National Review, the Washingtonian, the Village Voice and Mother Jones.

Images courtesy of Udo R Photography

Panel (except Stuart Newman)

Panelist Marcy Darnovsky

Panelist Sheldon Krimsky

Panelist Stuart Newman

Panelist Dorothy Roberts

Panelist William Saletan

Over 400 participants

Moderator Richard Hayes

Questions and comments

Comments and questions


Watch part one and part two as broadcast on Manhattan Neighborhood Network. [QuickTime format, 60 kB/sec]. Thanks to Steve Zehentner for his production work.

Texts of presentations

Richard Hayes - introduction
Sheldon Krimsky
Dorothy Roberts
Will Saletan
Stuart Newman
Marcy Darnovsky

About the Cosponsors

The Center for Genetics and Society is a public affairs organization working to encourage responsible societal governance of the new human genetic technologies. The Center works in a context of support for the equitable provision of health technologies; for women's health and reproductive rights; for the protection of our children; for the rights of the disabled; and for precaution in the use of technologies that could alter the fundamental processes of the natural world.

The Graduate Center, City University of New York is the doctorate-granting institution for the City University of New York (CUNY), with over 4,000 students and 1,600 faculty in 30 doctoral programs in the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Their work is augmented by 28 research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.

The Nation Institute was founded in 1966 with a fundamental commitment to the values of free speech and open discourse. The Institute places particular importance on strengthening the independent press in the face of America's increasingly corporate-controlled flow of information, and through its programs the Institute promotes progressive values on a variety of media platforms.

The New York Open Center is the largest urban holistic learning center in the United States. Founded in 1983, the Open Center presents more than 600 programs every year, including in-depth/ long-term trainings, conferences, lectures, performance and weekend workshops covering a wide range of holistic subjects, with attendance of over 15,000.

Demos is a progressive research and advocacy organization dedicated to helping build a society where America can achieve its highest ideals. Demos believes that requires a democracy that is robust and inclusive, with high levels of electoral participation and civic engagement, and an economy where prosperity and opportunity are broadly shared and disparity is reduced.


To learn more about the issues being addressed at the symposium, please see the following resources.

Selected Texts by Symposium Speakers

Marcy Darnovsky

Sheldon Krimsky

Stuart Newman

Dorothy Roberts

William Saletan


Hear author Bill McKibben and Marcy Darnovsky address the challenges of the new human biotechnologies, at the colloquium sponsored by the University of California Graduate School of Journalism (September 28, 2004) [MP3]

Hear Marcy Darnovsky and California State Senator Debra Ortiz debate the merits of the California stem cell initiative, Proposition 71, on KQED Forum hosted by Michael Krasny (October 7, 2004) [RealAudio]

Overview Documents

For a comprehensive overview of the social and political challenges raised by the new human biotechnologies, see the website of the Center for Genetics and Society.

For documents addressing the implications of human biotechnology by feminist and women's health leaders, see the website of the conference Gender & Justice in the Gene Age, held in May 2004 at the Ford Foundation.

For documents addressing the implications of these technologies for equality and democracy, see the website of the symposium Inequality, Democracy and the New Human Biotechnologies, held in July 2004 at the Century Foundation.

For documents by leaders from Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and elsewhere, see the website of the conference Within and Beyond the Limits of Human Nature, held in October 2003 in Berlin, Germany.

Electronic newsletter

For regular updates on important developments, subscribe to Genetic Crossroads, the email newsletter of the Center for Genetics and Society.

"The breadth of biotechnological interventions raises moral questions that are not simply difficult in the familiar sense but are of an altogether different kind..."

-Jurgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature (2003)